The Akita is a big and bold dog breed. They are often described as one of the world’s most loyal dogs. They are deeply affectionate and sweet with their family but very suspicious of anyone outside of their human pack. He’s a lot of dog packed into his stocky body, and not everyone has the knowledge or experience to handle the breed.
Akitas are relatively rare in the United States, so you won’t typically find them in shelters. However, it’s not uncommon to see strong-willed dog breeds end up in shelters, and the Akita is exactly that. The breed can be headstrong and stubborn, so if you are a first-time dog owner, we suggest looking at another breed.
However, if you have experience with independent dogs, the Akita can make an excellent family companion and home guardian. In this comprehensive breed analysis, we go into everything you can expect when welcoming one of these Japanese pups into your home. Let’s jump in and see if you have what it takes to handle this very special dog breed.
The Akita isn’t that ancient compared to many other dog breeds. He was developed in Japan in the 17th century. Legend has it that an emperor banned a wayward nobleman to Japan’s northern islands to live out his days as a provincial ruler. This nobleman was a huge dog fan, and he tasked his men to breed a powerfully large Spitz-type dog to hunt and protect his lands.
After generations of breeding, the Aktia was born. He was better than anyone could have imagined, and he was a hardworking dog who adored his humans. His high prey drive and sheer power meant that he hunted wild boar, deer, and the Yezo bear with ease. Initially, only the imperial family and courts could own him. But over time, the masses were allowed to enjoy his company too.
The most famous dog was called Hachiko from the 1920s. Sadly, he waited for his owner every day for nine years at the train station after his death. Hachiko’s remains are immortalized forever in a museum in his hometown in Japan. And many films have been made about his loyal story. The breed is a treasured animal in Japan. When a child is born, an Akita statue is given to the family for long life and happiness.
The Akita breed first came to America in 1927. While visiting Japan, Helen Keller received an Akita as a gift whom she brought back. But it wasn’t until soldiers returning from Japan after WWII that he became well-known and popular in America. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), he is routinely found in the top 50 breeds in America.
As we said earlier, the Akita has a strong and dominant personality that not everyone can handle. Especially not a first-time dog owner or those who are meek and mild. He needs to be homed with a family that can commit to lifelong training and strict home rules. They must have a strong leader who he can look up to. An unruly dominant dog does not make for a happy household.
If you can offer him the leadership that he needs, he is a fantastic family dog that will protect you with his life. He is described as profoundly loyal by the AKC. When his owners are threatened or attacked, he will go from cute to fierce in one second flat. If you are looking for a family guard dog, it’s hard to do better than an Akita.
A great trait of the breed’s personality is that he is very lively and loves to be the center of attention all the time. He craves attention, and he wants to be played with constantly. This trait makes him a fun family companion. He’s great with older children, but because of his huge size, he should be supervised when around smaller kids.
His love of humans and attention-craving means that he hates to be left alone for long periods. This is surprising for many dog lovers out there. Many of them think that you can simply leave the Akita to get on with his day without much attention. But try this at your peril, and you’ll soon find an unhappy and destructive dog on your hands. His intense personality and co-dependency are two traits that can land this breed in shelters.
This loyal and sensitive soul is why so many people fall in love with Akitas. They see themselves as lap dogs, so get ready for dead legs and squashed movie nights! Plus, they really do make the best furry hot water bottles. The label gentle giant suits the breed very well, until you mess with his family, of course.
Size & Appearance
The Akita is the largest of the Spitz-type dogs. He measures 24 to 28 inches tall and weighs between 70 and 130 pounds. A pooch over the weight of 100 pounds is considered to be a giant-sized dog. He is a thick-set dog with substance and heavy bones. His neck is thick and muscular, carrying his head with pride and alertness. They look very similar to Siberian Huskies and are often compared to them.
The Akita breed standard describes his head as massive, which it is! His jaw is broad, and his nose is square and fleshy. Leading up to relatively small triangular-shaped eyes. His ears are always erect and, again, small compared to his head. His skin is soft but not loose, disguising his muscular body. Often giving him a softer appearance and a ‘chubby’ look without being chubby.
These pups have large paws, but they are cat-like and rounded. His tail is his most distinctive feature. It is thick, fluffy, and curls like a Catherine wheel up his back. When he gets excited, his tail wags from side to side, but because it is curled, it spins around like helicopter blades. Unlike many giant dog breeds, his dewlaps are minimal. Meaning that he doesn’t drool that much compared to a Neopolitan Mastiff.
There are two distinct appearances of the Akita. In America, they are both called the Akita. Whereas in other countries, they are separated into two categories; the American Akita and the Japanese Akita. The American variant is larger, stockier, and squarer in appearance. Whereas the Japanese variant is more slender and more foxy-looking.
Coat & Colors
The Akita has a thick double-coat. The underlayer is soft and downy, keeping his body warm. His outer layer is longer and slightly harsher, which makes it weather resistant. However, it is still soft to the touch. He is a heavy shedder, which we take you through in the grooming section. But it is something that you need to take into account if you welcome him into your life. The Akita life is a hairy one!
The hair at his shoulders and rump is the longest part of the coat (except for his tail), which measures around two inches long. The hair on his tail is between two and three inches long, and it is profuse. On his body, the rest of his coat is shorter and usually around one inch in length. The texture of his coat is soft and straight.
There are a variety of coat colors to choose from. He has the choice of several colors, which are black, brown, brindle, fawn, red, silver, and white. Either a mixture of them or, rarely, a solid color. Sometimes the mixed-colored-coats are known as ‘pinto’ coats, which are similar to that of cattle; white with large patches of color that take up at least a third of his coat. Colored Akitas sometimes have a black mask that can cover the whole of his head.
The Akita is an energetic dog breed that requires at least 60 minutes of intense exercise every day. Because of his large body and heavily laden joints, we do not suggest high impact exercise such as hour-long running. But his activity does need to be active, and adventurous walks and playing in the park are great examples of the type of exercise that he would enjoy.
The Akita is an intelligent dog, and he can become bored and restless very easily. So be sure to mix up his activity throughout the week. Mundane walks around the block every day will not stimulate his active mind. Bored Akitas become destructive very quickly, and you’ll soon know if you aren’t entertaining him enough. In between his exercise sessions, he will also need interactive play with his family. And access to a variety of dog toys that will keep him entertained when you are busy.
As a puppy, you need to take it easy when it comes to exercise. In the sense that his developing bones and joints should not be subject to high impact exercise. Avoid highly impactive exercise until he is at least 18 months old. A great activity for young dogs is at the local doggy park. Here he can play with other dogs and top up on his socialization skills too.
It goes without saying that this large to giant-sized dog breed is not made for apartment life. He needs a larger home, preferably with access to a secured yard. This guy is used to the mountainous ranges of the Japanese mountains, and he likes fresh air in his nostrils. He’ll get cabin fever if you keep him cooped up all day long.
It’s not just activity level either. Because of their size combined with their attachment levels to their humans, they can make tighter living quarters feel smaller. These pups aren’t like other giant breeds that sleep all day. They need an active owner, that can take charge of their daily exercise needs and manage their big personalities. While acreage isn’t necessarily a requirement, a large yard is really best to give them some breathing room.
The Akita is an extremely dominant dog, and he needs a strict master who will take the lead. It’s wise to learn about dominant dogs and pack mentality. However, if you’re a first-time dog owner, this is not the best breed to start with. Both you and he will be much happier if you have previous experience with large dominant dogs.
He is intelligent, but he is also very stubborn. This is another reason why you should only take him on if you have experience. The Akita does things on his schedule, not yours. Start obedience training when young, and make sure to keep training sessions fun because he loves to play.
Start training young, and be consistent with his training. Firm but fair is the best way with him. The Akita is a sensitive dog and will sulk if you shout. It’s important with dominant dogs that the whole family gets on board with the training. Use the same command words, stick to the same rules, and make him work for food and toys. If you give in, you’ll lose the training battle.
The Akita must be socialized as a young pup, and without this, they can become a very dangerous dog. His sheer power, intense loyalty, and innate protectiveness need to be shaped into a well-balanced pooch. You do this through socialization, and it is a lifelong training commitment.
Leash training is another important training need. At up to 130 pounds, he can be a very strong dog. And he needs to know how to walk on a leash nicely if you want to enjoy your walks with him. Consider crate training to reduce your Akita’s anxiety levels. The breed is known to suffer from separation anxiety.
The Akita is a relatively healthy dog breed, considering his size. Many large dogs have a shorter lifespan than most other dogs, but they enjoy 10 to 13 years. It’s important to exercise him regularly, keep up to date with vet checkups, and feed him the best quality food that you can afford. All of this will keep him with you for as long as possible.
Like all dog breeds, the Akita breed is prone to certain health conditions more so than others. Although this doesn’t mean that he will not suffer from anything else, it does give you a good place to start. Take a look at the below, and learn about the symptoms to look out for.
This affects the hip joint of many large dog breeds. Because the Akita has lots of growing to do, his skeleton develops rapidly. This results in uneven growth, which grinds and causes accelerated joint damage. It is painful and causes arthritis in later life. Symptoms to look out for are stiffness during exercise, lameness in his rear end, and difficulty standing up or climbing the stairs.
The Akita is prone to various eye concerns, including progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts in later life. Both of these are usually linked to old age deterioration. Without treatment, both of these conditions can lead to complete blindness.
The Akita is prone to hypothyroidism, which is where his body doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone. This affects him in tiredness, hair loss, skin problems, weight gain, depression, and other concerns. Some Akita’s are known to suffer from a condition called sebaceous adenitis, which is often mistaken for hypothyroidism.
The Akita is a large to giant-sized dog who needs a lot of fuel to keep him sustained throughout the day. He needs between four to six cups of food every day, depending on his size, age, and energy levels. Always follow the package instructions, and do not overfeed your pup because he will get chunky. And his joints do not need any additional weight!
The breed has various life stages, which all have different nutritional requirements. It’s important that you take the time to learn about these and feed your Akita the right dog food according to his needs. A high-quality kibble will provide a balanced diet, including omega fatty acids to look after his skin and coat.
It’s important that you feed him a food that is specifically designed for large and giant breeds. These kibbles have the optimum ratios of nutrients to control rapid bone growth, which can decrease the chances of him developing hip dysplasia. Large breed puppy food is essential to his development at an early age.
The Akita is prone to a life-threatening condition known as bloat. This is common in many large breed dogs, and it concerns feeding time. Never feed your dog immediately before or after exercise, as this is when this condition is more likely to occur. Feed his daily allowance across at least two meal sittings, and the use of slow feed bowls can help too
Additionally, many vets advise that the breed be fed a light or lower calorie kibble from seven years old. This will help to decrease the chances of him developing kidney disease. It will also help control his weight because the breed is prone to obesity more than other dog breeds.
The Akita has a thick double coat that requires a fair bit of grooming. Thankfully, because it is straight, it is relatively simple, it just takes time. Throughout the year, he will need brushing two or three times a week. During the shedding seasons, you should increase this to most days if you want to control hair clumps floating around the home. For the shedding seasons, a deshedding tool will be required for successful grooming.
For a large or giant dog, the Akita is a relatively clean dog who rarely suffers from doggy odor. He will only need bathing once every 8 to 12 weeks or so. But never any more than this, as you risk irritating his skin and ruining his natural coat oils. His fluffy and soft coat will appreciate a conditioning shampoo to keep him looking his best. Always dry him thoroughly after a bath because a damp undercoat is uncomfortable, leads to infections, and can cause mold.
The rest of his grooming schedule is the same as any other dog breed. Clean his teeth at least once a week with doggy toothpaste to keep periodontal diseases at bay. And trim his nails as and when they get too long. This will usually be once a month as they will naturally wear down during exercise.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
Always work with a reputable breeder who will raise their pups with love, socialization, and medical attention. Look for those with years of experience, and insist on meeting you at the place the puppies are raised. Always meet the pup, the mother, and see health certificates before you make any commitments. A great place to start is with the AKC’s list of reputable Akita breeders. The average price of a purebred pup is around $1,500.
Never work with a puppy mill or those offering a puppy for much less than the average price. Poor quality breeders will not socialize their pups, which leads to untold behavioral problems. They will also be unlikely to screen them for health concerns, leading to expensive medical bills after purchase. Please do your bit to keep them out of business.
In addition to the puppy cost, you also need to consider the ongoing costs of owning an Akita. As a large to giant-sized dog, everything that you buy him will also be large or giant size. XXL crates, beds, toys, and higher food and insurance bills mean that you need to be sure that you are financially able to care for him.
Rescues & Shelters
Considering that occasionally Akitas do show up in rescue shelters across America, you should also think about adopting a a rescue. Head out to your local rescue center and speak to the staff there who will talk you through the adoption process.
It is likely to be much cheaper than buying from a breeder, and you could be saving their life too. There are also many dedicated rescue shelters that focus solely on rehoming dogs of this specific breed. The Akita Club of America lists several rescue organizations, so be sure to check there if a rescue dog interests you.
We’d also encourage you to keep an open mind when it comes to adopting an Akita mix. Crossbred dogs can have fewer health problems, and are often less expensive to adopt.
As Family Pets
- This is a dominant dog who needs an experienced family.
- He is a very protective and alert dog who makes one of the best guard dogs in town.
- He needs to be exercised at least 60 minutes every day.
- You’ll also want to dedicate plus lots of playtime in between.
- They love to be the center of attention and hates to be left alone.
- He is affectionate with his family and will squash you on the sofa.
- His training is a lifelong commitment that needs a strong pack leader to be happy.
- He needs a large family home with access to a secured yard.
- The breed can live with older children and sometimes other dogs (but not always).
The Akita is a powerfully strong dog, both in body and mind. You need to be an equally strong-willed and dominant pack leader if you are to have a happy relationship with him. If you can tick all of his boxes mentioned above, you are sure to get along very well indeed. Think you’re ready for the challenge? If you are, we know you’ll have a happy and fun life together. The Akita is the epitome of man’s best friend.